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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

'Intergalactic Nemesis' Shines Again


Maria Massa

I sat next to an enthused little girl for Saturday night’s presentation of “The Intergalactic Nemesis Book Two: Robot Planet Rising.” She wanted to talk about the play as soon as she sat down in the seat to my right. Had I seen the first play? Yes, I had. Did I like it? Yes, I did. This play, Book Two, was the second performance of the day from the Intergalactic Nemesis team (they’d done Book One, “Target Earth” earlier in the day). I’d seen the first installment when it played at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center two years ago, but this little girl had been to the show earlier that day — and she was back for the sequel.

I didn’t really need to ask whether or not she liked it. Her grandmother had already told me that she’d been called on duty to chaperone because the little girl’s parents were busy but the girl had been insistent on making it to the sequel. This was past her bedtime, no doubt, but the T-shirt she was wearing — “Intergalactic Nemesis” themed with signatures from the entire cast and crew — hinted that trying to make this little girl go to bed without seeing this play would’ve been a losing battle. So even though I was fairly confident I knew how she’d reply, I asked her anyways. Did you like the play?

“Oh yeah. I liked it. A LOT.”

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And that’s the appeal of “The Intergalactic Nemesis” series — it’s fun. In an innocent, non-cynical and easily approachable way, it’s a whole lot of fun. The second installment in the series, “Robot Planet Rising,” keeps up the spirit of the first. It can be pulpy, cheesy and corny at times, but it embraces those qualities and executes them in the most entertaining ways possible.

The performance, which the actors described in an introduction before the show began as a live-action graphic novel, is what drew me to the original show two years ago in the first place. A mix of graphic novel panels on a screen behind the stage, three voice actors performing all the speaking parts, a foley artist center stage creating sound effects to match the action and a pianist improvising the score as the show went on, the whole thing is a whir of energy and constant movement on stage. Going into the sequel, I didn’t know if the concept would hold up a second time, since the idea no longer had the novelty of the first time around.

As is probably obvious by this point, I had no need for concern — if anything, the second time around was even better than the first. With an idea of how the show would look and an understanding of how to watch it, I was able to take in even more of the fun.

I especially noticed the score, something I didn’t even remember from the first time I saw the show, performed by Kenneth Redding, Jr. In the introduction, the emcee (Christopher Lee Gibson, one of the spectacular voice actors) explained that the score would be improvised, leaving Mr. Redding some freedom to play it how he felt it. He couldn’t have done any better. The score drove the action of the play, pounding and hot at times, slow and haunting at others.

The storyline almost doesn’t even matter in a show like this, but for what it’s worth, it’s good. It’s not “Citizen Kane,” and it doesn’t quite hold up to muster with the film that the show’s creator and director Jason Neulander said inspired it, “The Empire Strikes Back,” but for an intergalactic mystery with intertwining storylines and characters full of reveals and double crosses, it shines.

Neulander and company are currently at work on the third and final piece in the series, due to premiere this fall. If the first two are any indication, start marking your calendars now and plan on catching the show when it (hopefully) comes to Notre Dame, because otherwise you’ll have to wait to catch it on Broadway or, more likely, when the film version hits the big screens at a movie theater near you.

And if you need any more evidence for the entertainment value of “Robot Planet Rising,” take it from the little girl who sat next to me — “Oh yeah, that was REALLY good.”